When you first start dating someone, the main focus typically is whether there’s chemistry, witty banter, common interests, and some semblance of follow through. The fun times can easily last between 6-10 months, but sooner or later one if not both parties will start to wonder, is this enough or do I want more?

While a great friendship is a solid start to creating a stable long-term relationship, you also need a commitment to working things out, honest communications, mutual trust and respect for each other’s boundaries. You need to (1) share a vision for the future together, (2) agree on finances, and (3) develop a path to actually merging your lives into one household. All of these are critical components, love is just not enough.

During the courtship phase, we should all be doing our due diligence (research) and periodically review the ROI (return on investment) of your time and energy. Here, it is important not to overlook red flags and discount someone’s past track record. Why? Because the best predictor for future behavior is the past.

Sure, no one is perfect, and the older we get the more baggage we all carry. However, there is a big difference between a one time lapse in judgment and a long standing history of poor choices. For example, anyone can make a mistake in their taxes one year, but that is very different from a person that has racked up years worth of debt or tax liens. Many might have a one-time indiscretion towards the end of their marriage, but that is nothing like the sordid trail of woe created by a serial cheater whose deep-seeded sense of entitlement will always trump the needs/wants of anyone else.

Ultimately, in all romantic relationships we are always going to be taking a risk. Who knows what life will throw your way? But for many of us, it’s about mitigating the risk of a broken heart so pay very close attention to your partner’s moral compass and remember the wise words of Kenny Rogers in The Gambler: know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run.

By Regina A. DeMeo